Friday, April 4, 2014

Anarchy in Vancouver

So the federal government allowed Emma Goldman and Dr. Ben Reitman into Canada and the duo were booked at the Orange Hall at the corner of Gore and Hastings. However, once it was revealed who Goldman and Reitman were, the Orangemen cancelled the lecture. They announced that “on no account will any anarchist be permitted to speak on their premises.” Fortunately, the 'anarchists' were able to give 2 lectures at the Labour Temple on Dunsmuir Street for December 16 and 17, 1908.

An editorial for the Province stated, “Miss Goldman’s theories have their origin in the wickedness and perversity of human nature bred in the vice and wretchedness of great cities or under the grinding foot of tyranny whether that tyranny is of the one or the many.” Her ideas may naturally resonate in Czarist Russia, her home country, but were “absurd to imagine in connection with Canada or any part of it.”
Philip Timms took this photo of the Orange Hall in 1908. Image from the Vancouver Public Library archives.

Here's a photo I took of the Labour Temple on Dunsmuir.
This is Goldman's 1901 mugshot taken when she was implicated in the assassination of  President McKinley. From Wikipedia.

The Province also felt that most people only attended out of curiosity because there are only a tiny handful of people who “after wrecking their own fortunes by vice or indolence are desirous of pulling society down to their level.”

There was also an opinion piece in the same edition that railed against female speakers, especially Emma Goldman.

The fact of such women getting hearers to pay twenty-five cents each to hear them talk anarchy makes us feel that brains and common sense are unequally distributed and that there is a considerable proportion of people who lack those desirable qualifications.

However, the reporter who actually attended the event confessed he was surprised by the lecture. Instead of the wild ravings he expected, Goldman delivered a speech that was well thought out, logical with proper enunciation and well turned sentences.

Emma discussed a range of topics including government, relations, crime, industrial relations and such. Her issues were all related to her anarchist philosophy. Here is an excerpt from the Province newspaper.

Now, how many of you people are not certain that you could live without government or authority? … All of you know that in your own minds you are certain that you could live without carrying these governments, but you say, ‘I can, but the other fellow cannot. I don’t need law, but he does.’ You keep on thinking you are your brother’s keeper and the trouble is you have kept him so long he has forgotten to keep himself. How do you otherwise account for that vast horde of lazy people the workingmen have always carried, the judiciary, the police, the soldiers and all those others who won’t work? Anarchism opposes government in every form because it believes in the power of the individual to take care of himself.

Goldman and Reitman's visit to Vancouver was uneventful, despite the warnings and fears of some. The issue that followed her the most was free speech. Or, in this case, lack thereof and it would explode in Vancouver the following year when the police tried to prohibit the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) from soap-boxing on street corners and holding open air public meetings. Hmm. Looks like there may be another blog entry there!

This is the symbol of BCTel, which merged with Telus in 1998. BCTel started in 1904. Another entry I am sure!

Emma Goldman did return to Canada, spending considerable time in Montreal and her final years in Toronto.
Thanks goes to the Past Tense Vancouver for the information in this entry.

I hope you find the beauty around you.


  1. Loving your blog posts, and your photographic tours of what I proudly call my hometown, despite not having lived there for 17 years now. It's definitely changing on an almost monthly basis, as I notice on my annual visits.

    1. Thank you Nick. I live here and things seem to change almost daily!

  2. Love your blog. Love the pictures. Nice job

    1. Thanks for being such a loyal reader and commenter Lee. I really appreciate it.